MIAMI — As the Rays complete their extensive and voluminous preparation for the unprecedented opportunity of making 10 of the first 60 picks in the draft two weeks from Monday, they are making hard decisions on which players they are most likely to draft.
And also which ones they are not.
A key to the Rays' draft strategy is identifying and focusing deeply on the players most likely to be available when they make their first selection (No. 24) until their last of the first day (No. 60).
"There are guys we feel like are sure-fire bets to be off the board by the time we pick, and (scouting director) R.J. (Harrison) and his staff have had to make decisions along the way on which guys to move on from," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "Our goal in this is to line up our board starting at about 15 to 75 and hope and expect to get our top 10 picks from that pool."
The action will be fast-paced, with five minutes between picks in the first round and just one in the compensation round.
But Friedman said the experience of having three extra picks last year (and five of the first 79 total) helps as they've found their preparation this year isn't all that different.
"The most important part," he said, "is to get our board lined up based on our evaluations, and be able to, and by putting in the amount of work leading up to it we will just be able to, react accordingly."
Next they have to sign them, and Friedman said they are ready and willing to spend the money — which some suggest could exceed $12 million — to sign those top 10 picks, and hope to do so quickly afterward, unlike last year when top picks Josh Sale and Drew Vettleson held out and as a result are still in Port Charlotte in extended spring training. (Though if they don't sign them, they get to roll over the picks to next year.)
"We've planned for this draft for a while now," Friedman said, "and I'm extremely confident we'll be able to sign the guys that want to go out and play."
24 (from Red Sox for Carl Crawford)
31 (from Yankees for Rafael Soriano)
32 (original pick)
38 (for Soriano)
41 (for Crawford)
42 (Grant Balfour, signed w/A's)
52 (Brad Hawpe, signed w/Padres)
56 (Joaquin Benoit, signed w/Tigers)
59 (Randy Choate, signed w/Marlins)
60 (Chad Qualls, signed w/Padres)
75 (from A's for Balfour)
89 (original pick)